It’s that time of the year again. The weather is finally starting to cool down…a little. Soon the leaves on the trees will start to change to the fall colors. College football will once again consume every second of my Saturday afternoons, which also means that college campuses just recently started classes back. If you’re reading this and you’re a property owner/manager at a student property, then hopefully you are patting yourself on the back as your property sits 100% occupied from the hard work you put forth during the Spring and Summer months marketing your property. If you’re not quite at your occupancy goal (maybe you should give us a call!), then there are some steps that you can take next leasing season to ensure your community being completely full.
The idea for this post came from reading Kerry Sugrue’s blog in Multifamily Insiders, which was great, so I am going to give my thoughts and expand on her topics she covered to give some tips on how to succeed with a college property:
1. “You Need To Have School Spirit”
Obviously if you are a student property, then your main marketing efforts need to be geared tremendously towards whatever college it is that your potential residents will be attending. This means that your community name needs to be in front of those students as much as possible. Attending events, such as open houses, orientations, group meetings, sporting venues, etc. are an absolute must. At any of these campus gatherings, little things can be handed out that pertain to college students (i.e. book bags; water bottles; food of any kind), because if there’s any category of any individuals that appreciate free stuff, then it is college students.
2. “Encourage Your Residents To Bring Friends”
One of the most powerful marketing tools that will influence your success at a college community is going to be word of mouth. In any college town students want to live where their friends live. I can vouch for this point, because even when I was in college, I literally moved every single year of school, because I wanted to live at the community where a majority of my friends lived. If I was going to be hanging out with these people everyday anyways, it just seemed to make sense to live in the same apartment community. Therefore, at any sort of community party that you plan, make sure to give an additional incentive to current residents for bringing their friends. One of the easiest things to give would be something along the lines of an increased resident referral where if anyone brings a friend and they fill out an application to move-in, then it’s a 2 for 1 deal and the typical referral given is doubled.
3. “Start Advertising Immediately”
A marketing plan for a student property should be something that encompasses the entire calendar. Whereas with a conventional property where marketing can be done per occupancy status and pushed when vacancies arise, marketing for a student property is never-ending. If a property is looking to become filled for the Fall, then the most important marketing window is without a doubt during the Spring. The reason behind this is that some student leases may be ending in May, so students will be looking to sign a new lease before they leave for Summer vacation. This is a key marketing point that cannot be forgotten, because college cities typically turn into ghost towns during the Summer since a majority of the population will be college students going home until the Fall. With no one being in town for the Summer and you being a property that needs to be filled by the beginning of school, you will absolutely be facing an uphill battle with a very short window between the time students actually come back in town and the first day of classes.
4. “Partner With The University”
The university should be your partner at all times, because all of your clientele will be coming from this all important place. Getting your foot in the door with any sort of housing related departments should be priority number one, because students that are not looking to live in a dorm may stop here to get their referral for apartment communities in the area. We actually worked at a student property that advertised themselves as the official student housing for the university (with permission from the university since they did not have any on-campus housing). This ended up being a huge marketing tool, because we were actually allowed to setup a mini office in the housing department to offer information to any student interested in living at a community that was not only sanctioned by the university, but was also where their peers would be living.
5. “Get Involved”
College prospects fall into the Generation Y category, which means that they are a group that is extremely connected with one another and seek to be very informed with all aspects of life they are involved with. Therefore, as a student community, it is pertinent that the property actively engage these college residents to ensure that they are aware the community is there for them. Have a huge welcome home party at the beginning of each semester to make the new residents feel welcome. Make them feel as if you are a community that is directly tied with the local university and be a presence on campus by sponsoring a tailgate for a football game. The more you can do for your college residents the better, because they are a very impressionable group and you want to do everything possible to ensure your property is known as the place to be.